The Eagle Industries SOFBAV Aero Assault is one of two armor system solutions adopted by USSOCOM as a replacement for the decade-old MBAV (the other is the Crye Precision AVS). I first saw an early variant of the Aero last summer and the final version at SHOT Show 2013. Because the system is so versatile and difficult to capture in a one paragraph report, Todd McDunn and Don Gallo invited me to come by one of their facilities and take an in-depth look at the Aero.
Due to scheduling it was not until recently that I was able to take them up on their offer. I’ve known Don Gallo for many years and it was great to spend the afternoon with him and his team. When you see Don on the floor of a trade show he is generally very serious and business like, but as he ran me through the paces on the Aero SOFBAV his eyes lit up and you could hear the excitement in his voice. You can tell that this is a project that Eagle has put a lot into and as you dig down into the details, there’s much to be proud of.
First off, the name. Aero doesn’t mean or stand for anything. It’s just the name they chose to market the vest so don’t read anything into it. SOFBAV on the other hand, stands for Special Operations Forces Body Armor Vest and denotes its use.
This is an evolutionary design based on the MMAC (Multi Mission Armor Carrier); the SOFBAV Aero Assault is completely modular in nature. Initially, the system will be offered with 80 component items. For example, there are nine different front flaps including a slick model, MOLLE version, a variant with Fort Bragg-style magazine pouches and even one that incorporates the pocket configuration of the muti-purpose chest rig. If I could choose one word to describe the SOFBAV Aero Assault it would be ‘customizable.’ You can scale from a simple plate carrier all the way to a full assault armor carrier and through the use of modular components configure the load specifically for the mission at hand.
It is designed to fit the legacy MBAV soft armor in sizes s/m or l/XL as well as BALCS and ESAPI hard armor plates. Front and Back Bodies can be paired regardless of size, offering additional customization regardless of size. The Aero Assault can be configured as either releasable or non-releasable. Eagle went one step further and made it simple to quickly reassemble the Aero Assault for wear in a non-releasable configuration one it has been released thanks to the side release shoulder buckle.
The cutaway pull cable can be configured in multiple ways based on mission and user preference. Of the release options, four are on the body; left, right, center chest and center waist. The shoulder straps are interchangeable with shoulder release configurable to either side. Additionally, the cable release can be set on the left or right side of the cummerbund. Cables are routed through the shoulders which lowers the time for New Equipment Training.
The Front Body incorporates an integrated admin pouch up high on the chest as well as removable front flaps which were briefly mentioned before. As with most armor carriers, the plates are loaded from the bottom and can be easily released.
The Removable Front Flaps attach via PALS. There are multiple versions as mentioned before as well as polymer inserts for various magazines.
Additionally, the Aero Assault Front Body is compatible with the ever popular multi-purpose chest rig which can be attached directly to the front of the vest.
The Back Body incorporates cable management pass through at kidneys as well as cable management ports at shoulder blade height. The flap can be pulled up in order to configure or inspect the cutaway.
In addition to a drag handle, the Aero Assault also offers zip-on back panels and packs. Above, you can see a pack on the left and the hydration pouch with bolt cutter on the right. There is also a MOLLE compatible back panel available.
Eagle uses a Taco flap at the rear of the vest to guide the cummerbund.
One unique requirement for this armor was the incorporation of a waist mounted load bearing system similar to that of a backpack. For this, Eagle teamed with Granite Gear who provides some of SOCOM’s family of packs. It is based on the Chief frame and features a single point of articulation on the lower back. The frame itself fits into a separate channel in the interior of the Back Body. The Load Lift attaches via a cradle at top inside placket of frame sheet so not against seam.
Lots of work was put into the Cummerbund component of the Aero Assault.
The Aero Assault cummerbund is 4″ wide and uses slip-on accessory panels that are modular and accept inserts. One example of the slip-on accessory panels are the side plate pockets manufactured from Tweave 520 softshell material and which accommodate 6×6 6×8 up to 6×11 plates.
The Assault cummerbunds originally consisted of three different styles but that has been streamlined down to two and both are the Tweave 520 money belt-style front and rear. They are sewn into four separate compartments and will accommodate MBITR radios as well as single magazines.
PALS webbing is the modified 3/4″ standard in order to decrease weight and make it a little easier to weave PALS pouches when the cummerbund is full.
Notice how the end of the Cummerbund stores inside a compartment when not needed for use as a cutaway.
Below are the “Releasable Tri-Glide Extenders, Assault” which are fixed distance release extensions and used when configuring the vest as a cutaway.
I’ll wrap this up with a few materials notes. The vest is made from 500D Cordura with a couple of additional materials. The interior of the Aero Assault consists of 1/4″ foam padding with Tweave 520 against the body for comfort. It is interesting to note that there is no metal on this vest except for the sleeved cutaway cable. Also, Eagle uses Murdoch’s Jacquard webbing throughout the design because it retains the camouflaged pattern much longer. It has other properties which are also desirable for this design such as durability.
The design of the SOFBAV Aero Assault is extraordinary. They have incorporated a great deal of lessons learned from use of prior vests into this design. If you are looking for a vest that will allow users to configure their armor for a variety of missions then this is worth checking out.
I want to thank Eagle Industries and in particular Don Gallo and his team for their hospitality as well Todd McDunn for setting the visit up.